NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – A manufacturing mishap ruined millions of doses of the single-shot Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine. Here in New Mexico, that means fewer doses than the state was expecting.
The New Mexico Department of Health calls this a “bump in the road.” Still, state health officials expect New Mexico to reach a point soon where vaccine supply could exceed demand.
Just as New Mexico and other states across the U.S. opened up COVID-19 vaccines to everyone 16 and older, 15 million doses of Johnson and Johnson’s vaccine were ruined after a mix-up at a Baltimore manufacturing plant.
“It’s obviously not something anybody would have wanted, but thankfully it won’t impact our overall numbers for very long, or in a very big way,” explained Matt Bieber, Communications Director for the New Mexico Department of Health.
Bieber said the state of New Mexico received an initial 30,000 doses of the single-shot vaccine and expected another 11,000 from J&J this week. However, this week’s shipment was now reduced to 2,000 J&J doses in New Mexico.
“It’s gonna be a small bump in the road, ultimately,” Bieber said. “We expect all of that to settle out as the J&J manufacturing issues smooth out at the national level.”
He said New Mexicans can expect to see more walk-in style or first-come-first-serve clinics popping up in the near future. They’re already taking place in more rural communities like Farmington.
“We’re gonna get to a point reasonably soon in which there’s just more supply than there is demand,” Bieber said.
As supply increases, New Mexicans scheduling an appointment through the DOH portal should also see which vaccines are available nearby, meaning the public can essentially choose which vaccine they want.
“What we’re doing in the portal is offering folks just a picture of what’s available in their area,” Bieber explained. “You know, this Walgreens has Pfizer, that clinic has J&J and then they get to choose.”
The Department of Health is also planning more outreach toward young people on social media. Bieber said they plan to engage with college basketball teams and celebrities to spread the message about getting vaccinated.
“I don’t think you want me on TikTok,” Bieber laughed. “I think you want somebody younger and cooler.”
“Maybe what it’ll be is just partnering and coordinating a little bit with young influencers that are already out there that are trusted voices among teens and young people,” Bieber explained. He said young people will play a big goal in the state’s goal of reaching herd immunity.
The state announced Friday that one-third of New Mexicans 16 and up are now fully vaccinated. More than 50% of eligible New Mexicans have had at least one shot. Like other vaccines, 16- and 17-year-olds need parental consent to get a COVID-19 vaccine. Pfizer is the only one currently approved for those age groups.